Simple steps for creating an inspirational, content-rich newsletter

We get a lot of questions about how we put together our monthly newsletters (thanks to all of you that subscribe!). My impression is that this question is really more about the content component of them, since our design and layout is really simple. 

As part of #YearOfOpen, we're happy to share some insights with you: read on for a peek into our email process!

- Alexandra


What you’ll need: accounts on Pocket, Feedly, IFTTT, Mailchimp, and Google Docs or notes app to write the copy. (Note: We’re big fans of IFTTT- you can use this service to automate all kinds of online processes, and it’s especially effective with social media).

Part One: Curating Content

  1. To curate content from Twitter: using IFTTT, set up a recipe that adds a “liked” item on Twitter to your Pocket account. (Find this by searching Twitter on IFTTT once you are logged in). Now each time you like a tweet with an outgoing link on twitter: it will be directly saved to Pocket. (tip: you can also do this in instagram).

  2. To curate content from Feedly: as you read a post/article that is noteworthy, just click the Pocket icon to send to your Pocket.

  3. When you’re ready to compile the newsletter: go through all the links and star your favorites. Then click on the Favorites menu to see only those links.

Part Two: Writing + Designing + Sending

  1. We copy/paste the links from Pocket into a shared Google Doc. Here, we collaborate on writing the copy, make sure we like how it sounds, organize it the flow, and edit down.

  2. Next- create a new campaign in Mailchimp. We usually insert an image we’ve designed in Photoshop, or sometimes just an iPhone pic (!) at the top of the newsletter. Some really effective newsletters are sent without any imagery, just copy. As a visual brand, we’ve found people tend to click on the pictures, so that works for us.

  3. We copy the copy (!) from Google Doc into Mailchimp, one text box for each group of links. Then we insert the in-line links, format using the available Mailchimp fonts (we prefer simple), check for errors, schedule and send!

This may sound like a lot of steps, but it is actually natural and simple in practice. By collecting pieces of inspiration during the course of our normal reading/social media scrolling, this allows us to really build all of the content for our newsletters in advance, and then spend just a bit of time putting it all together at the end of each month. You can use similar processes to gather links for blog posts, sharing on Twitter, or gathering inspiration from Instagram or Pinterest. A nice side benefit of this process for us is we start to see themes develop out of what links we are collecting, which is a great starting point for conversations and thinking. In December, we saved lots of article about color projections; in January, more business articles about startup strategy.

Questions? Let me know in the comments. If you’re not on our email list, subscribe right here. And if you set up a newsletter using these tips: please share it using the #YearOfOpen hashtag on twitter or instagram.